GROUND AND POUND

Here's why polarizing narrative from DeMeco Ryans, Texans just doesn't add up

Texans DeMeco Ryans
The Texans are struggling to run the ball. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Houston Texans head coach questions run game

DeMeco Ryans is highly respected. Always has been, and always will be. His reputation precedes him. Since his high school days, he's been known as a leader. One who does it by example. He walks the walk and talks the talk. Not many coaches have been able to turn successful playing careers on every level into a head coaching gig at the highest level. The ones who have are few and far in between. While he's only a handful of games into his head coaching career, he seems destined for something special. When he speaks on something, everyone should listen.

If you've watched the presser above, you noticed the first two answers: one was about toughness, the other was about the run game. Playing with toughness and running the ball effectively are calling cards of a defensive-minded coach. What I found surprising is his reference to making a guy miss in the hole and forcing some missed tackles. He complimented the offensive line for their blocking (run and pass), but seemed to call out the running backs.

The offensive line has had a ton of injuries. Either on season-ending injury reserve, temporary reserve, or out for a game or two. Giving up no sacks to the Steelers was very impressive with several backups. C.J. Stroud has had time to throw and has carved up defenses. It isn't perfect, but he's had decent protection. The run game is a different story.

They average 82.6 yards per game on 27.2 carries per game, for a paltry three yard per carry average. The three longest runs this season are 15 (Dameon Pierce), 14 (Devin Singletary), and 11 yards (a scramble by Stroud). They run the ball on 42.1% of their plays. I imagine his is not how DeMeco, or Bobby Slowik, envisioned this offense looking. But who's truly at fault?

I say it's the offensive line play and the play calling. The running backs didn't suddenly forget how to run. Pierce averaged four yards a carry last year as a rookie. Singletary has never averaged less than 4.4 a carry in his career. They're at 2.9 and 3.5, respectively, this season. I feel as though DeMeco covered for the line and put some of the onus on the backs to make guys miss. That's hard to do when blocks are being missed.

The play Jeremy Branham posted was a perfect example. It's a zone run to the right side. Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard seal off the left side of the defensive line. Jarrett Patterson, Shaq Mason, and George Fant are all supposed to move to the right in unison to set up the run for Pierce. As you can see, Mason moves to the second level and clearly misses his assignment, leading to a big loss by Pierce. Some might say Fant blew the assignment. I can see how one would think that given that the defensive end was lined up over Fant's outside shoulder. Zone plays are designed for the lineman to block an area, not a set person. Moving to the right, where the play was designed to go, he most likely had a different assignment. Bottom line: someone messed up and it wasn't Pierce.

While this is just one example, there are plenty to pick from. Can the running backs be better? Yes. Can the line block better? Yes. Should the play calling take all this into consideration? Most definitely. The fact remains that this line has injuries and is void of some talent (and healthy talent) at the moment. Asking more from your backs is a little much. I get trying to protect your line and give those guys confidence, but not at the expense of making the backs feel as if they need to step it up. Maybe it's DeMeco's way of firing those guys up and keeping them motivated.

DeMeco didn't draft Pierce. Singletary was signed to be a complimentary back. The team extended Tunsil, Howard, and Mason this offseason. See where this is going? I feel like this is a bit of preservation in their offensive line decisions, but also a way of saying they need more talent in the backfield. Regardless, I still believe in what DeMeco is doing until he gives me several reasons why I shouldn't. I can disagree with his statement and still support his overall mission. It's called duality and fans should try it sometimes.

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These uniforms have to go. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Major League Baseball will consider going back to having players wear their team uniforms for the All-Star Game.

Club uniforms were used by the American League from 1933-2019 and by the National League from 1934-2019. When the game resumed in 2021 following the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, MLB had started a uniform contract with Nike and Fanatics, and All-Stars were outfitted in specially designed league uniforms that drew criticism from traditionalists.

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

This year's AL uniforms had a sandy base with red sleeves and lettering and the NL had a navy base with light blue sleeves and lettering.

“I’m aware of the sentiment on this issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think where my head is on it, it’s something we’re going to have a conversation about coming out of the All-Star Game. We've got a lot of uniform things going on. And, obviously, the conversations have to involve the players first and foremost but Nike, some of our partners. But I am aware of the sentiment, and I do know why people kind of like that tradition."

MLB and Nike were criticized for club uniforms this year and said in May that 2025 club outfits will have larger lettering on the back of jerseys and individual pant customization. Players complained this year that white pants worn by some teams are see-through enough to show tucked-in jersey tops.

Regional sports networks

Manfred said a national steaming package of local television broadcasts is a future possibility.

“I could see a situation where we grow into a 30-club model. It might start on the digital side, where you have 14 or 15 clubs, and, you start with a digital product there as your first alternative,” he said.

“I was in Sun Valley last week and I did the whole speed-dating thing with everybody who’s ever streamed anything. When you talk to people in the streaming business, they’re not really interested in buying the state of Wisconsin and two counties in Michigan," Manfred added. "They want to be able to stream quite frankly, all over the U.S. and Canada but more broadly internationally. So I think those conversations are a product of owners saying, holy cow, the RSN business is really deteriorating. We know the future’s going to be streaming. What we’re hearing from the streamers is they want a more national product, and we need to be responsive to what people want to buy.”

MLB took over production of Arizona and San Diego local television broadcasts last year following the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports’ Bally networks and said MLB will be available as an option for teams looking for new deals. He said Padres game are approaching 40,000 subscribers, which he called a good figure.

“Having said that, from a revenue perspective it is not generating what the RSNs did," Manfred said. "The RSNs were a great business. Lots of people paid for programing they didn’t necessarily want. And it’s hard to replicate that kind of revenue absent that kind of bundling concept.”

Offense

While offense is near half-century lows, it has picked up from early in the season.

“The decline in offense is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and we’ll continue to monitor to make a decision as to whether we think we need to do something. You do hear a lot of chatter about the dominance of pitching in the game. That’s absolutely true.”

Birmingham

After the success of the June 20 game between San Francisco and St. Louis at Rickwood Field, Manfred said MLB will return to the ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, but the “exact form” had not been determined.

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